Peter Finnegan, Clerk of the Dáil

Updates and information for staff from the Management Board

Last updated: 31 July 14:30

Video message from Peter Finnegan, Secretary General


 

Last updated: 24 July 17:30

Dear all,

This week saw the introduction of the voluntary use of face coverings for everyone in the parliamentary community. Members, staff, political staff, journalists and contractors were strongly encouraged to wear a face covering. As far as I could see the measure was widely adopted and, thankfully, most people adjusted quickly to this new arrangement. Face coverings will help greatly in combatting the spread of the virus. They did, however, create a strange new environment for us all. And it took a bit longer than usual to recognise some colleagues and Members as they passed by!

This week we also saw a marked increase in legislative business. We are sitting longer and later as we tend to do coming towards the end of a session. I would like to thank the Superintendent’s Section and the cleaning and catering staff for keeping us secure and looking after us on these late nights.

More legislation also means more work for other key areas. The Library and Research Service are continuing to produce and publish the Bills Digests which are extremely helpful to Members and their staff in preparing to speak on legislation. I would like to say a big thank you to the fantastic team in the L&RS for this work. A big thank you also to our colleagues in the Bills Office and Journal Office who inevitably have to work late into the night to ensure everything is ready for the sittings.

As we draw near to the end of this session I am very conscious of the amount of work done by all of our staff through the year. The recent Annual Report for 2019 is testament to the unstinting and unrelenting effort put in by all of you to make sure that we can continue to do our business. I am very grateful to you all for your hard work. In that regard, I would like to thank the Office of the Commission and Secretary General for drawing together the Annual Report and for presenting your work so impressively.

We will meet in the Convention Centre Dublin for three days next week in what should be the final week of this session. The CCD is a world class conference centre which has adapted itself to our needs at no rental cost to the taxpayer. During the week I met with the Chairman of the Board of the CCD and expressed my gratitude on behalf of everyone for the CCD’s continued support for the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Before I conclude it would be remiss not to mention one historic development this week in the Dáil: the election of Deputy Catherine Connolly as Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Deputy Connolly is the first woman to be elected to a parliamentary officeholder post in Dáil Éireann in 101 years. After the success of Vótáil 100 it is timely and appropriate that the 33rd Dáil should have a female Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I congratulate Deputy Connolly on her election and I know she will have the support and good wishes of everyone in her new role.

Have a lovely weekend, agus fanaimis slán!

Peter

 


 

17 July 15:30

Dear all,

We have come to the end of a hectic week with the Dáil meeting in both Leinster House and the CCD, the Seanad meeting in the Dáil Chamber and the Covid-19 Committee meeting in both the Dáil and Seanad Chambers on different days. All this involved an intense amount of juggling for our staff to make sure that all of the sessions took place seamlessly. Thank you all for your effort and hard work in this regard. I am particularly grateful to those who have provided us with additional cover and much needed support, temporarily moving from their normal roles to new ones in the CCD and Leinster House.

This week there are some important housekeeping matters I would like to mention. Firstly, the Covid-19 tracker app--I downloaded this myself during the week and I would encourage you to do likewise if you haven’t done so already. There are over a million users and it will help to protect us and our families and friends.

You may have seen the office notice from HR today on our face covering policy to support our continuing efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in our workplace. With effect from Monday, 20 July the Houses of the Oireachtas strongly encourages everyone in the Leinster House complex to wear a face covering or mask in situations where it is difficult to practise social distancing. This policy which the Ceann Comhairle fully supports reflects recent developments at national level, particularly the decision to require face coverings on public transport and in shops and other indoor public places. Wearing a cloth face covering is recommended in situations where it is difficult to practise social distancing. And it may help prevent people who do not know they have the virus from spreading it to others. There is a worrying increase in the R number this week so we have to do everything possible to stop the spread of Covid-19.

As the parliamentary session enters its last fortnight and we head towards the holiday season I would also like to draw your attention to the recent guidance issued by DPER. The general advice is against all non-essential travel overseas until further notice. This includes Great Britain but does not apply to Northern Ireland. It also includes all travel by cruise ship. The Irish authorities require anyone coming into Ireland, apart from Northern Ireland, to restrict their movements for 14 days. Responsibility to provide for the period of restricted movement arising from non-essential travel overseas is a matter for each individual employee. Where there is an intention to undertake non-essential travel overseas, all employees must make provision by way of an annual leave or unpaid leave application for the additional period of restricted movement, in line with the normal rules applying in the relevant sector.

Can I say a big thank you to everyone who completed the staff survey on remote working. We had a fantastic response rate and we will circulate the results of it very soon.

This weekend, as you meet with family and friends, please take extra care. Enjoy your weekend agus fanaimís go léir slán.

Peter


 

10 July 17:00
 
This has been another exceptionally busy week in the House of the Oireachtas with parallel meetings taking place in both Leinster House and The Convention Centre Dublin. This could not be achieved without the co-operation of volunteers from the Communications Unit, the Office of the Parliamentary Legal Advisors, Parliamentary Budget Office and HR who are assisting the Superintendent’s Section in physically managing both locations.
 
As it’s over five months since the election and a government has now been formed we have come to the natural end of a period of high intensity work for us all. I wish to acknowledge the marvellous achievement of everyone involved in the implementation of the post-election plan during Covid-19. While all units of the Oireachtas Service are, of course, involved, I wish to particularly acknowledge the exceptional contribution of the staff in the One Stop Shop, Members HR & Pensions, Finance and Salaries Units for managing the financial processes and staff arrangements for many outgoing members and incoming new members. I also wish to thank the Facilities Management Unit and ICT for the managing the transfer of offices and provision of equipment during this period of uncertainty.  The dedication and commitment of all of our staff has supported the Houses of the Oireachtas Service in undertaking its functions in support of members during very challenging circumstances.
 
You will have seen information about the establishment of a new Compliance Team who will support everyone in the Parliamentary Community in maintaining the safety of our workplace during Covid-19.  To support them we are also seeking volunteers to act as Covid-19 Representatives and who will assist us in ensuring that the arrangements in the Return to Work Safety Protocol are maintained at all times by everyone.   If you are interested in becoming a volunteer please contact Damian Byrne, our new Compliance Manager.        
 
Finally, the Commission has published its 2019 annual report which you will find here.   The report, which includes the annual report on implementation of the Strategic Plan, shows the many achievements of the Service over the last year due entirely to your efforts. On behalf of everyone on the Management Board I want to sincerely thank you for your work which is recorded in this report. With your commitment to serving the Houses and members, I am confident that the Service is well placed to meet the challenges that lie ahead during this extraordinary period and will build on these achievements as we focus our collective efforts to support the 33rd Dáil and 26th Seanad.
 
Enjoy your weekend agus fanáigí slán,
 
Peter


 

3 July 15:00

We have come to the end of an exceptionally busy week! The meetings of the Dáil and Seanad last Saturday and Monday, respectively, in the Convention Centre went very smoothly as you may have seen from the news reports. I am really proud of all the staff who worked tirelessly in the background to make things happen. I have spoken on many occasions about the dedication that you all bring to your work. Moving both Houses of the Oireachtas to an alternative venue for plenary sessions was yet another example of this. A unique and complex undertaking, it was organised with great efficiency and attention to detail. A tremendous achievement by everyone involved.

On the subject of dedication, I am conscious that over the past few weeks a number of staff have left the Houses of the Oireachtas without the usual celebrations with their colleagues. I want to express appreciation to them for their outstanding commitment and service to the Houses of the Oireachtas including Joan Flynn, who many colleagues know from the Library and Research Service and Marie Fennell who retired after many years of dedicated service most recently in the Committee Secretariat. We will miss them and we wish them both every happiness in the future.

I would also like to acknowledge with appreciation the work of Breda O’Neill who is transferring to Trim after 30 years of committed service. Breda will be missed by many colleagues she has supported during these challenging weeks and we wish her well in the future.

Two of our colleagues are leaving the Oireachtas today following their successes in the external Principal Officer competition.Dervla Flynn who after four years working as part of the Committee Secretariat is taking up a new role in new the Department of Higher Education, Innovation and Research. Mairéad Keating who has worked over 18 years in the Houses of the Oireachtas, most recently in HR and on the Digital Transformation Programme has been assigned to the Department of Health. In the relatively short time Dervla was with us, she was an excellent clerk to BIPA and a number of Oireachtas Committees; and Mairéad made an outstanding contribution to the Digital Transformation Programme. On behalf of all their friends and colleagues I congratulate Dervla and Mairéad on their promotions and wish them success in their new roles.

While we will miss our departing colleagues, we will look forward to welcoming them back to celebrate as members of our Parliamentary Community as soon as circumstances permit. 

Finally, I would just mention that HR have circulated a survey about working from home.  I would be grateful if you could take the time to complete it, if you have not done so already, as it closes today – we are at 72% in terms of our response rate and we’d like to get that higher.

As the restrictions continue to be eased please stay safe and follow the HSE guidelines.

Fanaigí slán

Peter


 

26 June 14:45
 
This weekend promises to be one of the most significant in the history of Dáil Éireann. In January 1919, the Dáil held its first meeting in the Mansion House and since 1922 it has sat in Leinster House apart from two ceremonial meetings which were also held in the Mansion House. On Saturday, assuming everything goes to plan, the Dáil will meet in the Convention Centre Dublin (CCD) to nominate a new Taoiseach.  The Seanad will likely meet there also on Monday.  These will be formal sessions of the Houses in which all Members can meet and vote on important motions while observing the current social distancing guidelines. The move to the CCD has, of course, arisen from the need to find solutions to the restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.   I wish to again thank our own staff who have been intimately involved in making the CCD ready, in particular Charles Hearne, Breda Burke, Teresa Doolan, John Flaherty and the Usher and Service Officer teams, Noreen Banim, our sound and television contractors and Donnacha McKeon, our Broadcasting and Channel Manager and many others.   We are also extremely grateful to the staff of the Convention Centre and to An Garda Síochána who have willingly assisted us at every step of this journey.

While we will be down in the Convention Centre, Leinster House will also be open and as always our catering, cleaning and security and OPW colleagues will be on site to ensure that all Members and staff who are there throughout the day will be well looked after as always.

Today is a significant day for some other fantastic people in our organisation. As you may be aware our OWL trainees commenced their work learning programme last September. Their last placement day was 13th March when due to Covid 19 the programme on the Leinster House Complex was suspended. However, they have continued their training online with support from the partner organisations KARE and WALK and the Oireachtas Service. Today, the trainees and the Oireachtas Service marked their graduation day with a virtual tea break attended by the Ceann Comhairle.  Congratulations to all the trainees and it's onwards and upwards from here!

I know that you are continuing to work from home, as advised, during the Covid-19 pandemic.  I  would like to hear your views on how working from home has been for you and also your ideas on how we can continue to support you while you work remotely. It is important to hear your views so I would appreciate it if you could take the time to complete a short survey that HR issued today so that we can continue to work towards improving the remote working experience.

In conclusion, I hope you are staying in contact with family, friends and colleagues and that the recent good weather has given you an opportunity to get out and about much more than before.  With that in mind please remember to follow the HSE guidelines, in particular, for hand washing, respiratory etiquette, social distancing and face coverings. We all have to get used to wearing the latter more often!

Have a good weekend. Fanaigí slán,

Peter


 

19 June 16:40

This week I want to let you know in more detail about how we are planning for the return to the office for everyone on the Leinster House complex. This is not an easy or a quick task for us given that we have so many different stakeholders working on the thirteen buildings which form the  complex. The general advice is that working from home will be continued. The reasons for that approach include the reduced capacity in transport systems and the need for physical distancing in the workplace which will reduce occupancy rates in offices.  These reasons touch on all of you and on the Members and their staff as well. I hope that you have found working from home to be that bit easier now that we have upgraded the technology and the equipment you need to work effectively. If any of you still need technical assistance in that regard please contact the ICT Unit.

For the last 10 weeks we have been working with our professional advisors on safety and public health to see how best we can accommodate staff and members’ staff on site and in what numbers. Our advisors have assessed most of the Leinster House complex so for those of you who have been in or who are about to come back you will notice some differences; the seating has been removed from the restaurant which is offering a take away service and a reduced food offering, the coffee Dock similarly.  In the Chamber you will have noticed the restrictions on seating for Members and the seating for Clerks.  Entrance to and exit from the Chamber for Members and staff is also by agreed doors. In a few offices you may see screens between desks and it is likely we will have flexible attendance arrangements such as, for example, staff rostering. All of this is being planned now by the management team. I expect that you will be consulted as the plan is being developed in detail. Our overall objective, of course, is to ensure that we can support sittings in the Dáil, Seanad and Committees in the most effective way possible in the restricted circumstances of the Covid 19 pandemic.  We will, of course, continue to provide as many services as possible remotely while restrictions are in place.

We are heading into a really busy period of time.  Many Members and their staff will shortly move to new offices, as our accommodation is reconfigured to reflect the composition of the new Dáil and Seanad, and to reflect the imminent formation of a new government.  If the Programme for Government is agreed we will be meeting shortly in the Convention Centre for the election of the Taoiseach and for the first meeting of the Seanad.  Getting the Convention Centre ready has already taken an enormous amount of work and planning. And next week will be particularly busy as we put in place the procedural and logistical arrangements for a possible sitting. I want to say a big thanks to everyone who will be working on this task.

Fanaigí slán,

Peter


 

12 June 15:30

This week I hope you are enjoying the additional freedoms that have been brought about in Phase 2 of the national re-opening roadmap. We’ve taken a big step forward in terms of resuming normal life. Going for longer walks and meeting family, while maintaining social distance, are the things that I have been looking forward to for the last few months.

This is National Carers Week the purpose of which is to raise awareness of the carers in the community. I am conscious that many staff provide care to family members on an ongoing basis and Covid-19 will have increased their responsibilities. The Civil Service Employee Assistance Service (CSEAS) provides ongoing advice and support for anyone who would like to discuss some of the challenges or concerns. HR have circulated the information on this very important service to staff this week and you can also check their website on www.cseas.per.gov.ie. I’m also very conscious that some people are balancing their work schedules with their caring responsibilities so if you need assistance in any way, please talk to your line manager. We want to help.

This week the Covid-19 Committee took evidence from Dr. David Nabarro who appeared in the Dáil Chamber via video link from the World Health Organisation’s headquarters in Geneva. The Committee was updated on public health advice from the WHO, in areas like social distancing, face masks and coverings, and the latest research on the best ways to respond and mitigate the impact of the virus in the absence of a cure or vaccine. Fantastic work behind the scenes was undertaken by our ICT staff led by Finn De Brí, our Committee Staff led by Tom Malone and our service providers. I was so proud of what they achieved when I saw the video link being played on the RTÉ news last night. The Committee will meet again next week on Tuesday and Thursday. Next Wednesday the Dáil will meet. The Dáil is sitting for just one day to allow for consultation on government formation. If media reports are accurate, things seem to be moving in the right direction so, who knows, we may have some significant developments over the next week or so.

With all of this in mind we are continuing to assess the advice from our Health and Safety and public health advisors and to implement these recommendations to prepare for increased numbers on the Leinster House complex. Updates on key changes will continue to be circulated to all staff and we will keep you updated on progress.

To conclude, I wish you all a pleasant weekend. Keep safe, continue to follow the health advice, and stay in touch with your families and friends.

Le gach dea-mhéin,

Peter


 

05 June 13:45

Video message from Peter Finnegan, Secretary General

 


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